Music: Louise

Thirty years ago the talk of Paris was an opera called Louise, the music and libretto by Frenchman Gustave Charpentier. Parisians liked Louise because it was about Paris. Paris scenes were painted on the backdrops; a tart Paris bourgeois was its heroine, an impoverished poet its hero. Stage pictures of an old woman ironing or shaking out rugs, young women costumed in shirtwaists and skirts and sailor hats, music written to suggest the whirring of sewing machines—all these seemed then, the most daring realism. Actually Charpentier's opera succeeded because it was tuneful,...

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